The Role of (Deliberate) Metaphor in Communicating Knowledge in Academic Discourse

An Analysis of College Lectures from Different Disciplines

by Anke Beger (Author)
Thesis 454 Pages


While the relatively recent notion of ‘deliberate’ metaphors – metaphors that supposedly play a special role in communication – is contested among researchers, the debate lacks empirical grounding. This book presents the first large-scale study of forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in authentic spoken academic discourse. The author’s comprehensive qualitative analyses of 23 US-American college lectures from four different disciplines demonstrate that deliberate metaphors occur in various forms and fulfill important communicative functions. While these findings may indicate the value of deliberate metaphors, the author’s critical discussions of both identification and application of deliberate metaphors in authentic discourse also point out issues with the very concept of ‘deliberate’ metaphor.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Theoretical Framework: Approaches to Metaphor and its Study
  • Introduction
  • 2.1 Conceptual Metaphor Theory – an overview
  • 2.1.1 The main tenets
  • 2.1.2 Criticism and the next generations of metaphor research
  • 2.2 Steen’s three-dimensional model of metaphor
  • 2.2.1 The dimension of language: ‘indirect’ versus ‘direct’ metaphors
  • 2.2.2 The dimension of thought: conventional versus novel metaphors
  • 2.2.3 The dimension of communication: ‘non-deliberate’ versus ‘deliberate’ metaphors
  • 2.3 Studies of metaphor in academic discourse
  • 2.3.1 Academic articles and textbooks
  • 2.3.2 Lectures
  • 3 Language Data and Methodological Considerations
  • Introduction
  • 3.1 Corpora and data collection
  • 3.1.1 Lectures
  • 3.1.2 Supplementary texts: textbook chapters and academic articles
  • 3.2 Methodological considerations
  • 3.2.1 Procedures for identifying metaphor in language
  • MIP
  • Description
  • Discussion
  • 3.2.2 The process of establishing a method for metaphor analysis in spoken academic discourse: a case study of six psychology lectures
  • Testing MIPVU
  • Supplementing MIPVU: further methods for analyses
  • Establishing discourse units and analyzing metaphor frequency with respect to ‘abstractness’ of discourse
  • Identifying deliberate metaphors and topical structure
  • 3.2.3 Method for metaphor analysis in the 17 lectures that were not part of the case study
  • 3.2.4 Identifying deliberate metaphor
  • 3.3 Summary
  • 4 Social Psychology: The Role of Deliberate Metaphor in Communicating Knowledge across two Different Genres of Academic Discourse
  • Introduction
  • 4.1 Genre and register in academic discourse: textbooks, lectures, and the notion of intertextuality
  • 4.1.1 Defining genre and register
  • 4.1.2 Genre and register of the two textbook chapters and the four lectures in Social Psychology
  • 4.1.3 The lectures’ intertextuality
  • 4.2 Metaphors for aggression in Social Psychology: a comparison of a textbook chapter and two lectures
  • 4.2.1 Method
  • 4.2.2 Results
  • 4.2.3 Discussion
  • Conceptual metaphors for aggression realized in both textbook chapter and lectures
  • Personal preferences and intertextuality: differences in the use of aggression is pressurized liquid in a container and aggression is losing a battle between two competing instincts
  • The register variables tenor and mode as possible causes for metaphor variation
  • 4.2.4 Summary
  • 4.3 Deliberate metaphors for love, liking, and relationships in Social Psychology: a comparison of a textbook chapter and two lectures
  • 4.3.1 Method
  • 4.3.2 Results
  • 4.3.3 Discussion
  • Love is a business transaction: communicating an academic theory of interpersonal attraction
  • Deliberate metaphors that only occur in the textbook chapter: linguistic realizations of the conceptual metaphors love is heat, love is fire, and love is a drug
  • 4.3.4 Summary
  • 4.4 Summary of the role of deliberate metaphor in communicating knowledge across two different genres
  • 5 Deliberate Metaphors across three Different Disciplines: Forms and Functions
  • Introduction
  • 5.1 Functions of metaphors
  • 5.2 Forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in psychology
  • 5.2.1 Deliberate metaphors with an explanatory function
  • Sperm types as racehorses, kamikaze sperm, and offensive linemen
  • Human beings as big bags of protoplasm
  • Penises as pile-drivers
  • Childhood psychopathologies as skill/identity scars
  • Children as investment
  • 5.2.2 Deliberate metaphors with an affective function: Thanatos as the dark side in “Star Wars”
  • 5.2.3 Unclear cases: non-reciprocal people as free riders, more money issues, and other patterns
  • 5.3 Forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in biology
  • 5.3.1 Biologists’ work as Frankenstein’s work
  • 5.3.2 A cell’s nuclear pores as a gate
  • 5.3.3 The cell as a black box
  • 5.4 Forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in chemistry
  • 5.4.1 Deliberate metaphors with an explanatory function: the flow of electrons in redox reactions as the flow of water in a waterfall
  • 5.4.2 Deliberate metaphors with an affective function: an electron as Jake whom you’ve been friends with forever
  • 5.5 Summary of the forms and functions of deliberate metaphors across three different subjects
  • 6 Philosophy: Deliberate (?) Metaphors, Recontextualizations, and Mixed Metaphors in Negotiating the Concepts Mind and Self
  • Introduction
  • 6.1 Contextualizing the Self lecture: deliberate metaphors in the homework readings
  • 6.1.1 Deliberate metaphors, constructed source domains, and metaphorical scenarios: Searle’s academic paper “Minds, brains, and programs”
  • The Chinese Room Thought Experiment
  • The Stomach Example
  • 6.1.2 Recontextualizing deliberate metaphors in written academic discourse: Hofstadter and Dennett’s adaptions and extensions of Searle’s analogies
  • The concept of recontextualization and its usefulness in metaphor studies
  • Analysis of recontextualized metaphors in Hofstadter and Dennett’s reflections on Searle’s paper
  • 6.1.3 Summary
  • 6.2 Deliberate metaphor use and recontextualization in the Self lecture
  • 6.2.1 Recontextualizations of Searle’s metaphors in the Self lecture
  • 6.2.2 Recontextualizations of Hofstadter and Dennett’s metaphors in the Self lecture
  • 6.2.3 Summary
  • 6.3 Intertextuality, (non-) deliberate metaphors, and mixed metaphors: comparing the Self lecture to a philosophy lecture about the movie “Blade Runner”
  • 6.3.1 Contextualizing the Blade Runner lecture
  • 6.3.2 Deliberate metaphor use in the Blade Runner lecture
  • 6.3.3 Mixed metaphors, non-deliberate metaphors, and borderline cases: more on communicating and negotiating knowledge in the Blade Runner lecture
  • Deliberate or non-deliberate metaphors? The borderline case of the project onto metaphor
  • Mixed metaphors: communicating conflicting aspects of the concept humanness/humanity with the metaphors project onto, tool, and strip off
  • Non-deliberate metaphors and their communicative function in the Blade Runner lecture: the antonyms inner (life) and external (behaviors)
  • 6.3.4 Summary
  • 7 Biology: The Role of Metaphors in Communicating Knowledge about DNA Transcription and Translation in four Molecular Biology Lectures and an Article
  • Introduction
  • 7.1 Research on metaphor in (natural) science teaching and science popularization
  • 7.2 Characteristics of the biology lectures
  • 7.3 A two-step method for the metaphor analysis of the biology lectures
  • 7.4 Discussion of the metaphors used in the biology lectures
  • 7.4.1 Rope metaphors
  • 7.4.2 Language metaphors
  • 7.4.3 Geographical region metaphors
  • 7.4.4 Building/structure metaphors
  • 7.4.5 Machine metaphors
  • 7.4.6 Person metaphors
  • 7.5 Summary of the role of metaphor in knowledge communication in biology lectures: metaphorical and deliberate to whom? Considering technical terms and level of expertise
  • 8 Chemistry: The Role of Metaphors in Communicating Knowledge about Electrochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry in four Lectures
  • Introduction
  • 8.1 Characteristics of the chemistry lectures
  • 8.2 Methodological adjustments for the analysis of the General Chemistry lectures
  • 8.3 Discussion of the metaphors used in the chemistry lectures
  • 8.3.1 Metaphors that occur in all four chemistry lectures
  • 8.3.2 Electrochemistry vs. nuclear chemistry: distinct metaphor patterns of two different sub-fields of chemistry?
  • Attack and container metaphors in nuclear chemistry
  • Container metaphors revisited: explaining the composite nature of subatomic particles in nuclear chemistry
  • Metaphors shared by the electrochemistry lectures
  • 8.3.3 Metaphor profiles of the individual electrochemistry lectures
  • Metaphor profile of Chem1: introducing the Galvanic cell
  • Metaphor profile of Chem2: hungry, angry, and pleased chemical elements
  • Metaphor profile of Chem3: nothing but dead batteries
  • 8.4 Summary of the role of metaphor in knowledge communication in chemistry lectures: distinct metaphor profiles which reflect the communicative needs of each individual lecture
  • 9 Summary and Conclusion: The Value of Analyzing Deliberate Metaphors in Knowledge Communication – and some Limitations
  • 9.1 The value of analyzing deliberate metaphors in the communication of knowledge in academic discourse
  • 9.2 Problems in distinguishing deliberate from non-deliberate metaphors and communicative functions of non-deliberate metaphors
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • References

1 Introduction

Metaphor in academic discourse has been widely studied. Even if we narrow down the multitude of studies to those that can at least loosely be situated within a cognitive linguistics framework of metaphor (see Lakoff & Johnson 1980), just as my study in this book, we are still faced with a bulk of research. Metaphor in academic discourse has, for instance, been examined by Brown (2003), Cameron and Low (2004), Deignan, Littlemore, and Semino (2013), Giles (2008), Herrmann (2013), Knudsen (2003), Low (2005), Semino (2008), Skorczynska & Deignan (2006), Wee (2005) – to name but a few. While all of these studies (mainly) focus on written academic discourse, my study examines authentic spoken academic discourse in form of academic lectures. Only few studies have systematically examined metaphor in lectures, most notably Corts (2006), Corts and Pollio (1999), and Low, Littlemore, and Koster (2008). However, none of these studies analyzes a corpus of authentic language data which is nearly as substantial as mine.

For my empirical study, I video-recorded 23 lectures from four different disciplines at a U.S.-American college. The four disciplines (psychology, philosophy, biology, and chemistry) were carefully chosen to encompass both natural sciences and social sciences/the humanities. The entirety of this extensive corpus of spoken language was then analyzed. My investigation of the role of metaphor in communicating knowledge in college lectures represents a discourse-based approach to metaphor analysis. Examining lectures from a discourse perspective in some cases necessitated analyzing written academic discourse in form of reading assignments, which added five academic texts to my overall corpus. Such a qualitative study of metaphor use in academic lectures which analyzes a corpus as comprehensive as mine is, to my knowledge, unprecedented. Moreover, though, my study has yet another distinguishing aspect: Its focus is on a particular type of metaphor, the use of deliberate metaphor (e.g., Steen 2008, 2010, 2015, 2017). Deliberate metaphor is a recent concept which was proposed in order to account for a metaphor’s communicative function (ibid.). Deliberate metaphor’s emphasis on communicative functions makes this concept particularly appealing and suitable for a discourse-based study of metaphor use. However, a systematic analysis of deliberate metaphor in academic lectures – or academic discourse more generally – has not been provided yet. The present book fills this research gap1.

Let us briefly consider a discourse area which is entirely different from academia in order to appreciate a number of characteristics of deliberate metaphor that initially sparked my interest in this concept. Below, I provide a relatively recent example of deliberate metaphor that occurred in a ‘blend’ of discourse areas which are familiar to most people from their daily lives: social media and politics. ←17 | 18→Example (1) represents an infamous message that Donald Trump Jr. sent out over the social media service “Twitter” during the final stages of the U.S. presidential election campaign in 2016.

In Trump Jr.’s “Tweet” from September 19th, 2016, the text reprinted in example (1) is placed above a cereal bowl filled with Skittles (a brand of popular candy). The ‘distasteful’ analogy that Trump Jr. uses in this “Tweet” illustrates a number of characteristics associated with deliberate metaphor. Based on these characteristics, I will point out possible transferences to deliberate metaphor use in academic lectures. These aspects will ultimately lead to the set of research questions which I will pursue in this monograph.

The analogy in the quote metaphorically compares partially poisoned candy to a large group of people consisting of Syrian refugees as well as presumed terrorists who pretend to be Syrian refugees3. Just as the poisoned Skittles will kill the person who eats them, the terrorists masquerading as refugees will attack and kill the people of the nation providing refuge. The analogy then asks the addressees, whether they would eat some of the Skittles, knowingly taking the risk of being poisoned. This aspect is supposed to be transferred to (or ‘mapped onto’) the question if the USA should take in any Syrian refugees, even though there are, allegedly, quite certainly terrorists among the people seeking protection as Syrian refugees. Just like the poisoned Skittles, these presumed terrorists cannot be previously identified as such and might therefore succeed in entering the USA, killing ←18 | 19→American citizens. That the addressees of Trump Jr.’s “Tweet” are in fact supposed to make this comparison between Skittles and Syrian refugees is signaled by the last part of the analogy: “That’s our Syrian refugee problem”. This brief analysis of Trump Jr.’s “Tweet” shows that an analogy as short as example (1) communicates a number of aspects of a given topic (here: the “Syrian refugee problem”) in a compressed way via metaphorical transfer (or ‘mappings’) from the analogy’s source domain (here: ‘Skittles problem’).

Following Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff & Johnson 1980; see Chapter 2), such transference or mappings are at the heart of all metaphors. However, what sets deliberate metaphors apart from other kinds of metaphor is, among other things, what we ‘do’ with these mappings in discourse. For instance, in example (1), we can probably agree that Trump Jr.’s ‘Skittles Analogy’ was carefully crafted with the express purpose of letting American voters consider the “refugee problem” from the perspective of the fictional ‘Skittles problem’. It can furthermore be assumed that the ultimate aim of letting the addressees consider the “refugee problem” in terms of the ‘Skittles problem’ is to let the addressees come to the firm conclusion that they would of course not risk their lives, as well as the lives of fellow American citizens, by allowing any Syrian refugees into the country. Therefore, Trump Jr. presumably used this analogy for specific discourse functions, such as convincing American people that refugees are dangerous and persuading American voters that his father’s planned policies to deny refugees entry into the United States is not only justified but even in the voters’ best interest. These goals are pursued by constructing the ‘Skittles Analogy’ in such a way that it communicates suggestions about the topic, the “refugee problem”, thereby inducing fear. For instance, three poisoned Skittles in a cereal bowl filled with Skittles pose indeed quite a risk of being poisoned if you eat a handful. The risk for an American to be killed in a terrorist attack is not anywhere as high, though. Ignoring the other inadequacies of the ‘Skittles Analogy’, a more accurate way to compare the risk of being poisoned by three Skittles to being killed by a terrorist attack would have been to depict the three poisonous Skittles in one-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools of Skittles, according to the Washington Post4.

In summary, example (1) has so far demonstrated two important aspects of deliberate metaphor. One, a number of complex aspects can be communicated in a condensed form. Two, particular goals or discourse functions can be achieved ←19 | 20→by choosing (and manipulating) the source domain from whose perspective the addressees are supposed to view the actual topic. These characteristics of deliberate metaphor appear to be mainly ‘sender-based’. That is, the sender presumably chooses a particular deliberate metaphor with the purpose of accomplishing certain goals.

Deliberate metaphor is not just about the sender, though. It also, or perhaps even crucially, predicts that the addressee is practically forced to consider the topic from the perspective of the metaphor’s source domain (cf., e.g., Steen 2008: 224). It is often difficult to show that an addressee uses a particular perspective in order to think about a specific topic, especially when metaphors are used in genres where reactions of addressees can barely be observed. This is usually the case for genres which are not particularly interactive and barely allow any feedback, such as, for instance, academic writing or traditional academic lectures. One of the reasons why I chose the ‘Skittles Analogy’ for the present purposes is that it enables us to observe reactions to deliberate metaphor. The ‘Skittles Analogy’ gained a lot of attention in the (social) media. People of different political views were quick in defending or rejecting it. Not only journalists responded to this analogy, but ‘ordinary’ people via their “Twitter” accounts, for instance. Many reactions to the ‘Skittles Analogy’ pointed out ‘flaws’ in the analogy. That is, the analogy suggests a number of correspondences between Skittles and Syrian refugees which in fact do not exist. Thus people pointed out these ‘incorrect mappings’ in their reactions to the ‘Skittles Analogy’, for instance, ‘people are not candy’, ‘three poisoned Skittles in a bowl do not correspond to the statistical likelihood to get killed by a terrorist’, and ‘unlike you, grabbing a handful of candy, the responsible U.S. Department carefully vets refugees before allowing entry into the USA’. This resistance to metaphor in the (social) media demonstrates the power of deliberate metaphor to let addressees consider a topic (here: ‘deciding whether or not to take in refugees when there is a possibility that terrorists disguise as refugees’) from the perspective of the metaphor’s source domain (‘deciding whether or not to eat Skittles from a bowl full of Skittles when three of the Skittles are poisoned’).

Acknowledging all of these aspects of deliberate metaphor – that it communicates multiple aspects (including implications) in a compressed form; that it is used to achieve particular communicative purposes; and that addressees view the topic from the perspective of the source domain – I wondered if these metaphors could also be valuable tools in communicating knowledge in academic discourse. Considering that academic discourse serves an informative and explanatory purpose rather than a persuasive one, and is generally assumed to be characterized by factual language rather than rhetorical language, can we expect to find deliberate metaphors in the lectures of my corpus? This overarching question motivated my study of deliberate metaphor in academic lectures presented in this book. It is further differentiated into the set of research questions below:

This is the set of the main research questions for my study. However, when I started my research on deliberate metaphor use in academic lectures, the concept of deliberate metaphor had only just been born. Steen’s first definitions of deliberate metaphor in his papers from 2008 and 2010 are in fact slightly different from the more recent ones (e.g., Steen 2015, 2017)5. This shows that deliberate metaphor has been developed and refined over the past decade. Since deliberate metaphor was a rather fuzzy concept when I began my analyses, I expected difficulties in applying it to my corpus of authentic, and at times rather messy, spoken language. More specifically, I anticipated problems in distinguishing deliberate from non-deliberate metaphors. To illustrate some difficulties specifically for my data, let us briefly consider examples (2) to (5) from my corpus of lectures.

(2) There appear to be two different types [of sperm]. The egg-getters and what they call kamikaze sperm. The egg getters are the sort of racehorses of the sperm world. They’re built for speed and their goal is to get to the egg and to fertilize it6.

(3) That’s what exchange theory is all about. It proposes that our relationships are essentially business transactions. You bring something to the table, the other person brings something to the table, and if you’re both happy with what you’re getting in exchange, the relationship continues.

(4) (…) but many transcription factors in yeast, humans, bacteria work as two proteins working together, maybe two exact copies of the same protein, maybe two different proteins that bind each other and then bind the DNA.


a. They provide the strong force that holds the nucleus together and overcomes proton-proton-repulsion.

b. Well, um, different nuclei have different extents of stability, of instability.

c. And, so, we’ve got an actual nuclear particle, falling apart.

Without providing detailed analyses of these examples at this point, let me briefly address apparent differences between some of the metaphors highlighted in ←21 | 22→examples (2) to (5) with respect to the degree to which they possibly ‘stand out’ as ‘alien domains’ in their surrounding discourse texts. Examples (2) and (3) seem to contain metaphors that rather obviously stand out as alien in their surrounding texts. In example (2), the text is about ‘sperm types’. A description of a sperm type in terms of a racehorse that is built for speed appears rather noticeable. The same argument can probably be made for the many expressions relating to business transactions in example (3), where the actual discourse topic is ‘love and friendship relationships’.

However, in example (4), it becomes more intricate to decide whether two terms relating to language in a text about ‘DNA transcription’ are particularly striking. We could argue that in a biology context, transcription and copy are not specific language choices which reflect special discourse purposes. Instead, these terms are the only means to unambiguously denote the concepts at hand, since they constitute the respective technical terms. Even if the professor does not use technical terms for specific communicative purposes, though, does this also mean that students will not ‘stumble over’ new metaphorical terminology?

Example (5) is once more slightly different. The excerpts (5a.-c.) are taken from different parts of a single chemistry lecture, but these parts are not close to one another. The topic in (5a.-c.) is ‘the atomic nucleus and its particles’. Neither the nucleus nor nuclear particles are concrete objects or structures like buildings that can hold together, have (in)stability or fall apart. Some of these metaphors (in/stability) may once again be the only means to talk about the topic in the context of nuclear chemistry, as they are part of the technical terminology. Others are conventionally used in ordinary language to talk about a variety of abstract domains that cannot literally hold together or fall apart. Are these conventional metaphors noticed as ‘alien’ in their discourse context? A number of the business transaction metaphors in example (3) are also conventional – but unlike those in example (5), they appear very close together and are preceded by the explicit comparison between ‘relationships’ and business transactions. In the chemistry lecture, we do not find the professor saying something along the lines of “Atomic nuclei are essentially like houses that can fall apart”. And yet, there seems to be systematicity, to some degree, in talking about abstract aspects of atomic nuclei in terms of concrete objects or structures. Even if such systematicity does not ‘stand out’ in the same way as the metaphors in examples (2) and (3), does that mean that such non-deliberate metaphors do not fulfill any functions in communicating knowledge?

The questions raised by considering examples (2) to (5) illustrate why I added the following two research questions to the agenda of this book: What are the problems in distinguishing deliberate from non-deliberate metaphors in the specific discourse contexts of the lectures in my corpus? Furthermore, do non-deliberate metaphors play any discernable role in the communication of knowledge in academic lectures? Note, however, that these additional research questions are not the central ones for the present study. The main focus is on forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in academic lectures, reflected in the first set of research questions formulated above.

←22 |

The research aims are pursued as follows: First, Chapter 2 provides the necessary theoretical framework for an analysis of metaphor in general, as well as deliberate metaphor in particular. Subsequently, Chapter 3 describes the nature of my corpora and their collection before it outlines in detail the methodological decisions I came to in order to analyze these comprehensive corpora with respect to (deliberate) metaphor. Chapters 4 to 8 constitute the main body of this monograph in which I present the findings with respect to the research questions formulated above. All five analysis chapters give insights into the most basic question whether or not deliberate metaphor plays a role in communicating knowledge in academic discourse. However, the most central chapter of these five analysis chapters is Chapter 5, which systematically takes stock of the various forms and functions of deliberate metaphors that occur in 21 of the 23 lectures from three of the four subjects.

In addition to this overview chapter, each of the four disciplines represented in my corpus is analyzed in a separate chapter. Each chapter adds layers of context to the analysis of deliberate metaphor use and presents a specific focus. Chapters 4 and 6 consider the supplementary texts of the lectures that are analyzed in these chapters in order to answer a particular sub-question: In what ways is the use of deliberate metaphors in academic lectures influenced by reading assignments for these lectures? Chapter 4 presents these findings in form of a genre comparison between textbook chapters and lectures in psychology. In order to take some of the findings of Chapter 4 into account for the systematic overview of forms and functions of deliberate metaphors in Chapter 5, the more specific chapter (4) is presented as the first of the analysis chapters. Chapter 6 examines deliberate metaphors that are used in the two philosophy lectures. These lectures cannot be addressed in the overview in Chapter 5, as most of the deliberate metaphors used in them have to be discussed against the background of the texts they originate from. Many deliberate metaphors in the philosophy lectures are ‘recontextualizations’ of complex analogies of the philosophical papers that constitute the reading assignments.

Chapter 7 is the first of the two chapters on (deliberate) metaphor use in natural science lectures. It analyzes biology lectures where the question regarding the distinction between deliberate and non-deliberate metaphors becomes particularly prominent with respect to technical terms, as indicated by example (4) above. One of the questions Chapter 7 asks is therefore “Metaphorical and deliberate to whom?” Chapter 8 presents findings in chemistry lectures, which addresses, for instance, patterns of ‘less striking’ metaphors found in different parts of lectures, as indicated by example (5) above. It therefore provides some answers to the question of systematicity among non-deliberate metaphors and possible discourse functions. While Chapter 9 summarizes the main findings for both sets of research questions, its focus, just like the focus throughout this book, is on the first set, the forms and functions of deliberate metaphor in academic discourse. Some possibilities of future research are also pointed out.

1 Please note that parts of this dissertation have already been published elsewhere.

2 Posted on Twitter on September 19th, 2016: https://twitter.com/donaldjtrumpjr/status/778016283342307328?lang=en. Last accessed: August 20th, 2017.

3 Note that the “Tweet” is not entirely unambiguous, especially the Skittles source domain scenario, which could also be interpreted as follows: ‘Imagine Skittles were so unhealthy that eating only three of them would already kill you. Would you eat an entire handful of them?’ It appears, though, that the source domain scenario is supposed to read as follows: ‘There is a bowl of Skittles of which three are poisoned and you do not know which ones. Would you risk eating a handful?’ The second reading is the one that most people reacting to the Tweet seemed to have, perhaps because a similar meme with “M&M’s” circulated on the internet about a year before Trump Jr.’s “Tweet”: “If I had a bowl that was filled with 10,000 M&M’s but I told you that 10 of them were deadly poison would you eat a handful? This is how I feel about the Syrian refugees”, accessed at http://imgur.com/gallery/BA9a0SG. Furthermore, a summary of reactions to Trump Jr.’s “Tweet” that also support this second reading can, for instance, be found on the website of The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/21/us/politics/donald-trump-jr-faces-backlash-after-comparing-syrian-refugees-to-skittles-that-can-kill.html. Last accessed: August 31st, 2017.

4 The Washington Post points out more problems of the ‘Skittles Analogy’ and cites statistics to support their claims. The article can be accessed here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/19/donald-trump-jr-inadvertantly-encourages-america-to-scoop-up-refugees-by-the-handful/?utm_term=.a93693d85178. Last access: August 21st, 2017.Also, note that the analogy has several fear-inducing aspects, among them dehumanizing people fleeing from terror. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the ‘Skittles Analogy’, though.

5 I will, of course provide comprehensive definitions of deliberate metaphor in order to properly delineate this concept for my study. Chapter 2 (2.2) provides the theoretical framework of deliberate metaphor and in Chapter 3, deliberate metaphor is operationalized (3.2.4).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
metaphor analysis conceptual metaphor empirical investigation qualitative analysis natural sciences social sciences
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 454 pp., 2 fig. col., 5 fig. b/w, 34 tables

Biographical notes

Anke Beger (Author)

Anke Beger studied English and German to become a school teacher at the Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF). Afterwards, she spent a year as an assistant teacher in the USA. In 2018, Anke Beger obtained her doctoral degree in English Linguistics at the EUF where she works as a researcher and lecturer.


Title: The Role of (Deliberate) Metaphor in Communicating Knowledge in Academic Discourse